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IDEA Complaint Decision 18-062

On August 8, 2018 (form dated August 2, 2018), the Department of Public Instruction (department) received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX (complainant) against the XXXXX (district). This is the department’s decision regarding this complaint. The issues are whether the district, during the 2017-2018 school year:
  • Properly conducted a special education evaluation; and
  • Properly conducted an individualized education program (IEP) team meeting with required participants.

School districts are required under state and federal special education law to locate, identify, and evaluate all resident students with disabilities who have not graduated from high school. The purpose of an evaluation is to determine whether the student qualifies as a child with a disability and the nature and extent of the student’s educational needs. As part of a special education evaluation, the school district must appoint an IEP team. The IEP team must conduct a review of existing data to determine what additional data, including information from assessment or other evaluation activities, are needed to complete the evaluation. The student’s parent is part of the IEP team and must be afforded an opportunity to participate in this review. Assessments or other evaluation activities may include observations in a range of environments, standardized or norm-referenced tests, intellectual testing, informal and criterion-referenced tests, rating scales and checklists, and interviews with parents, caregivers, regular education teachers, and others as appropriate. If the IEP team determines additional data are needed to complete the evaluation, within 15 business days of the receipt of the referral, the district must provide the student’s parent notice of the assessments or other evaluation activities to be conducted and a request for the parent’s consent. The district must obtain the parent’s prior written consent before administering any assessment or conducting other evaluation activities. If the IEP team determines no additional information from assessments or other evaluation activities are necessary to conduct the evaluation, the district must send the parent prior notice of this determination. Federal regulations provide that screening to determine appropriate instructional strategies is not considered an evaluation of eligibility for special education services. Screening activities generally include all children in a school, grade, or class, such as kindergarten screening.

On March 21, 2018, the district received a referral for a special education evaluation for the student who is subject of this complaint. On March 28 and 29, members of the student’s IEP team conducted a review of existing data, including information obtained as part of a February 2018 evaluation pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The student’s parent participated in this review via e-mail on March 29, 2018. The district sent the complainant a notice that no additional assessments were needed on March 29, 2018. Following the parent’s receipt of the notice, and prior to the IEP team meeting to determine the student’s initial eligibility for special education, district staff distributed and completed a rating scale/checklist to measure the student’s executive functioning. Several of the student’s teachers completed the checklist and a district staff member went through the checklist with the student. The parents also completed the checklist. The results of these checklists, including lists of identified executive functioning strengths and weaknesses in a number of academic areas, were included in the evaluation report. In addition, on April 25, 2018, district staff completed observations to collect data regarding the student’s time on task during multiple activities and in a few different environments. A narrative summary of the observations, including percentages of the student’s time on task, were included in the evaluation report. The results of both activities were used as part of the evaluation to determine the student’s special education eligibility and educational needs. As such, these activities do not meet the definition of screening, and the district should have provided the student’s parents prior notice and obtained the parent’s written consent prior to conducting these activities. The district did not properly conduct this portion of the student’s special education evaluation. No student specific corrective action is required. The district is directed to develop a corrective action plan to ensure all staff participating in special education evaluations understand the process of reviewing existing data and obtaining consent for required assessments and other evaluation activities. This corrective action plan must be submitted to the department within 30 days of the date of this decision.

The IEP team must include a representative of the local education agency (LEA) district who is qualified to provide, or supervise the provision of, specially designed instruction, is knowledgeable about the general education curriculum, and is knowledgeable about and authorized to commit district resources. Districts determine which staff members are authorized to act as LEA representatives at IEP team meetings. Any district staff member fulfilling a different role on the IEP team may also serve as the LEA representative, provided the individual meets the requirements to act in that capacity.

The special education teacher served as the LEA representative at IEP team meetings on May 21 and June 7, 2018. Since the district provided the teacher with the authority to commit resources, and the teacher met the other qualifications required of an LEA representative, it was permissible for the teacher to serve in that capacity for both of the IEP team meetings.

All noncompliance identified above must be corrected as soon as possible, but in no case more than one year from the date of this decision. This concludes our review of this complaint. This decision is final for the IDEA State Complaint process.

//signed CST 10/5/2018
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support